Wow, I can’t believe it’s being that long since my last blog post — almost 6 months! A lot has happened since then. We had our first vacation in many years and spent some time to Puerto Rico, which was so amazing! Visiting the Caribbean was a dream of mine for years. The boys still talk about wanting to go back there almost daily. And today as I’m writing this post we are sitting out in self-isolation as COVID-19 continues to spread through Colorado and the world in general.
Otherwise our lives have been going the usual ways — we still have been trying to reduce the use of plastic anywhere we can, buy things consciously, tend to our garden, and find other ways to leave lesser foot print on the planet. I’ve discovered some new wonderful plastic-free and non-toxic products that I’ve been wanting to post about. I also have been wanting to share some really incredible books I read. But I just haven’t had time. The thing is, over a year ago my husband and I have decided to open our own forest school. It has fully consumed most of my time. But it has been a really wonderful and rewarding experience, and I am happy to finally having a moment to share a little bit about it with you.
How it came about
About one and a half years ago we started looking for some sort program for young children for our older son, Alexandros, who was 3.5 years old at the time. We could tell he was ready and wanted to dip his toes into the world outside our home. He was excited about the idea of going to a school, like children do in the books we read, and to meet friends.
In our search we quickly learned that our choices were limited to programs where children spent majority of their time indoors, with minimal outdoor time on the playgrounds that almost entirely lack nature. The idea of having my little boys, whom I loved watching as they laid among the flowers, eating fruit from our garden and watching bees or butterflies, sent to one of those indoor programs was simply depressing to me.
And so came the decision to create our own school for young children where they can spend most time outside. And in the process we have learned about forest schools, also known as nature kindergartens — something that appears to be rather common in Europe, but we’ve never heard about in US.
What is a forest school
In case you, like us, haven’t previously heard of forest schools or nature kindergartens here is a great short video introducing you to this incredible format of a child care.
The concept of a forest school instantly clicked for me, as it always seemed most natural for young children in particular spending their days roaming outside, preferably in natural environment. I always felt that nature is that ideal place for kids to be kids. A place where they can run in any direction, break things, throw things, climb and simply explore the world as well as their own capabilities. It also seemed only logical to me that their developing bodies require a lot of movement, which helps to develop muscle mass and with that strengthen their bones, all of which are necessary for the health of internal organs. It was fascinating to also discover that there are scientific studies showing many benefits of outdoor time in natural environment vs. indoor time, even at a best child care environment.
Children and Nature website collected many of such research documents here.
It was also sad to learn that apparently pre-school kids are the fastest growing market for anti-depressants, that the rate of childhood obesity has grown from 7% in 1980’s to 18% in 2012, and that children spend 90% of their time indoors. [source]
So a little over a year ago we acquired a cabin tacked right against a beautiful canyon not far from our home. We were very fortunate to have found a most charming little cabin with beautiful large property. When we got the property it was in nearly perfect condition already. And so in May of 2019 we have opened our very own forest school — Real Red Riding Hoods forest school.
School’s logo probably will explain the name better than any words, but if you’d like to learn more about the story behind the name, here is a blog post over on school’s website about it.
It’s been an incredible experience. Not without bumps. And with a tremendous learning curve, mostly in the field of government regulations. But overall we are extremely happy with how it’s been going.
I hope there is a forest school in the area where you live. I truly think forest schools make most ideal environment for children.